Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido called on Europe Thursday to intensify financial sanctions against the regime of Nicolas Maduro, a day after Caracas expelled the German ambassador for ‘interference’.
European countries ‘should strengthen financial sanctions against the regime. The international community must prevent Venezuelan money from being misused to kill opponents of the regime and indigenous peoples,’ Guaido said in an interview with the German news weekly Der Spiegel.
Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January, strongly condemned the decision by president Maduro to expel the German ambassador to Caracas, and urged the envoy to ‘remain’ in Venezuela.
‘Venezuela lives under a dictatorship, and this way of proceeding is a threat to Germany,’ Guaido said.
‘Maduro holds the presidency illegally. It is not legitimate to declare an ambassador undesirable,’ he added, thanking Germany for humanitarian aid it has provided.
‘The regime not only threatens the ambassador verbally, his physical integrity is also threatened.’
Venezuela expelled Germany’s ambassador Wednesday, hitting out at international support for Guaido.
The foreign ministry gave German envoy Daniel Kriener 48 hours to leave for ‘interference’ in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
Kriener was among more than a dozen foreign representatives to welcome Guaido at Caracas airport on his return to the country on Monday - but so far the only one deemed ‘persona non grata.’
German foreign minister Heiko Maas said that kicking Kriener out only ‘aggravates the situation.’
Meanwhile, a US journalist who was detained for more than 12 hours by Venezuelan security services was released Wednesday after more than 12 hours in custody, one of the networks he worked for reported.
Cody Weddle, who worked in Venezuela for several years as a correspondent for a variety of US media, ‘has been released after being detained by Venezuelan authorities,’ Miami’s WPLG Local 10 News said on Twitter.
Venezuela’s National Union of Press Workers, known by its Spanish acronym SNTP, added he had been taken to Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport where he would be deported.
The release was also announced by Senator Marco Rubio, a strident critic of the administration of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, whose leadership was challenged in January by National Assembly chief Juan Guaido, setting off an ongoing power struggle.
‘They do this for one reason alone, to intimidate journalists from reporting on @jguaido & on conditions in #Venezuela,’ said Rubio.
Kimberly Breier, the US assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs, had earlier demanded Weddle’s ‘immediate release,’ charging that Maduro ‘prefers to stifle the truth rather than face it.’
Weddle’s disappearance was reported by a non-government organization, Espacio Publico, in Caracas.
‘We know that members of the military intelligence directorate appeared at his home this morning to ask him questions about his coverage on the border,’ Carlos Correa of Espacio Publico told AFP.
According to the SNTP, Weddle was detained at his Caracas home at 8:00 am and his work equipment was confiscated.
His assistant, Venezuelan Carlos Camacho, was freed after 12 hours in custody, according to the same group. He had been detained by security services at his home, the union said.
Oil rich but impoverished Venezuela is in the throes of a political crisis triggered by Guaido’s decision to proclaim himself interim president in January.
He is recognized by more than 50 countries but lacks the support of high-ranking military necessary to seize power from Maduro, who he accuses of fraud in last May’s presidential vote that saw the socialist leader return for a second term.
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